ACA sup­port­ers wary and weary

The Denver Post - - NEWS - By Dave Weigel

WASH­ING­TON» Ben Wik­ler learned the Af­ford­able Care Act’s fate from a text mes­sage. The Wash­ing­ton di­rec­tor of MoveOn.org, who had led nearly daily ral­lies out­side the Capi­tol to stop re­peal, was five hours into the fi­nal protest when a col­league passed him her phone, buzzing with texts.

“Pence not in chair,” read one. Wik­ler read it to the 300 pro­test­ers gath­ered around him. “Murkowski is a no. Let me con­firm that. Murkowski is a no.” Then: “Mc­Cain is a no.”

Wik­ler read the text out loud. “It was like fire­works go­ing off,” he said in an in­ter­view. “Every­one started chant­ing U-S-A. Strangers were hug­ging.”

Later Fri­day, Wik­ler and a siz­able army of ac­tivists were still dazed, and a lit­tle ner­vous. The anti-Trump “re­sis­tance” move­ment, which has re­peat­edly watched the re­peal ef­fort “die” and be mirac­u­lously reborn, looked at the Se­nate vote as a gen­uine vic­tory, with lessons about how to keep block­ing the Repub­li­can agenda.

“This is a truly his­toric vic­tory and a demon­stra­tion of con­stituent power,” said Ezra Levin, a for­mer con­gres­sional staffer who co-founded the In­di­vis­i­ble project of grass-roots ac­tivist groups. “We should cel­e­brate . . . [but] Trump­care is not dead. Do not for­get that in the House, Ryan de­clared de­feat, and then six weeks later they passed it.”

Ac­tivists, who on Fri­day were still sur­prised by their vic­tory, cred­ited a num­ber of fac­tors for the turn­around. First, to their sur­prise, the con­ser­va­tive move­ment that had so ef­fec­tively tox­i­fied the ACA for vot­ers seemed to phone it in dur­ing the re­peal fight. Prore­peal or­ga­ni­za­tions such as the Club for Growth ran TV ads to urge House mem­bers along, but faded dur­ing the Se­nate bat­tle. The Club for Growth’s big­gest con­tri­bu­tion, a team-up with the Tea Party Pa­tri­ots, was a lit­tle­seen web­site that at­tacks skep­ti­cal Repub­li­cans as “traitors.” In the end, no TV ads were run to sup­port the Se­nate’s ver­sion of re­peal, and no ac­tivism or ral­lies in fa­vor of re­peal was seen by any sen­a­tor.

The Repub­li­can de­ci­sion to craft a con­ser­va­tive bill that only needed in­tra­party sup­port also put the ac­tivists on the same side as health in­sur­ance groups and AARP, which ac­ti­vated their own net­works to op­pose re­peal.

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